RE/MAX 440
Joanne Stahl
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-398-8111 1426
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Cell: 610-392-6547
Fax: 267-354-6236 
jstahl@remaxcentralinc.com
Joanne Stahl

My Blog

A Must-Read Glossary of Terms for Homebuyers

July 30, 2015 12:27 am

A number of products and services exist to help homeowners protect what will likely be the largest investment they’ll make – buying a home. The key to their effectiveness is gaining a clear understanding of various industry terms, defined by the non-profit National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA).

Home Service Contract/Warranty

A home service contract provides service, repair or replacement due to normal wear and tear on major, built-in household appliances and systems. Most cover items such as dishwashers, ovens, wiring and plumbing systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).

Many contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool pumps, spas and freestanding appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Rural homeowners may also elect to add septic tanks or well pumps.

At an average cost of $550 a year, contracts historically renew annually. In recent years, many providers have begun to also offer coverage on a month-to-month basis.

Qualified contract providers maintain a toll-free service call line 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the convenience of their customers. Dispatch of a trusted local service provider usually occurs within 3-5 business days, with expedited options for emergency situations.

Service calls average approximately $75 and protect the homeowner’s pocketbook, as some repairs and replacements have the potential to run thousands of dollars with no contract in place.

Builder’s Home Warranty

A builder’s home warranty is very different from a home service contract or warranty. These warranties, provided by the builder on a new home, are designed to offer coverage on the actual workmanship and materials used in the home’s construction.

Product and Extended Warranties

Retailers and manufacturers frequently offer warranties on the purchase of on the goods – such as electronics and automobiles – they make and sell directly to the public through retailers. These new product warranties are generally active for a limited time to safeguard against existing defects in the product.

Extended warranties are just that – warranties that extend beyond the original warranty period. At purchase, retailers may offer to extend a new product warranty for an additional price. These new product or “retail” warranties are part of a separate industry, aside from the home service contracts/warranties.

Insurance

There is little similarity between home service contracts and insurance. Insurance protects a homeowner against partial or total damage or loss to the structure itself or possessions in the home. Insurance protects against sudden and fortuitous events such as fire, wind, hail, theft, collision or other accidents. Insurance does not cover breakdowns due to normal wear and tear. The two products complement each other – they do not overlap.

Homeowner’s insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.

If a tree falls on the exterior air conditioning unit of a home, it s covered by insurance. If an air conditioner stops blowing cold air, it is covered by a home service contract or warranty.

In most states, it is not legal for a home service contract to cover anything which could be covered by insurance.

Source: NHSCA

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How Much? Average Employee Tax Burden Revealed

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

Taxpayers may be handing over a lot more of their earnings on pay day than they realize. According to a recent Tax Foundation report, wage earners in the U.S. average a 31.5 percent tax burden on their pre-tax income, or over $17,000.

The average U.S. wage earner faces two major taxes: individual income tax and payroll tax, levied on both the employer and the employee. Although a little more than half the worker’s payroll tax burden is paid by his or her employer, the worker ultimately pays this tax through lower take-home pay.

While the revenues from these taxes pay for government programs, it is important to know what the cost of these programs are from the average worker’s perspective. Of the average $17,372 tax burden, $8,631 is for the individual income tax and $8,741 is for payroll taxes.

In the absence of income and payroll taxes and the benefits they provide, the average worker would take home nearly $5,000 in additional annual income, the report found.

Source: Tax Foundation

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Add Chimney Cleaning to Summer To-Do List

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

In warmer months, lawn and pool care naturally become priorities for homeowners – but did you know chimney cleaning is also best completed in summer? Scheduling an annual inspection of your chimney during the summer months can save you frustration in the autumn, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Traditionally, Labor Day is the start of the busiest time of year for chimney sweeps.

“Chimney sweeps get extremely busy in the fall; if you wait to schedule, you are not likely to get an appointment as soon as you might like,” says CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge. “By scheduling now, you will have time to complete any necessary repairs before the start of the heating season. Not to mention the peace of mind you will get knowing that your fireplace or wood stove is ready to go for those dark days of winter.”

When you have your chimney and heating system inspected, be sure the technician inspects furnaces for missing panels and ductwork or open cold air returns. If these situations exist in your home, they should be repaired.

When hiring a chimney sweep, look for the CSIA certification. This demonstrates the professional is has passed an extensive examination of fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimney and venting systems. They are also well-versed in the characteristics of fuels available for home heating, such as wood, gas and oil.

Source: CSIA

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Renting a Moving Truck? 8 Tips for DIY Movers

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

Moving to a new home? Instead of shelling out big bucks for a professional mover, do it yourself with a rental vehicle and these tips, courtesy of the experts at U-Haul.

1. Plan your move in advance.
Since nearly 45 percent of all moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, make your reservation for a rental vehicle at least two to four weeks prior to your moving date.

2. Avoid the weekend rush.
Typically, Sunday through Thursday offers greater equipment availability, plus banks, utilities and government offices are open. In addition, rates may be lower during this time.

3. Look into your homeowner’s insurance policy
prior to moving, as some policies will cover belongings while moving as long as the insurance policy is in force during the move.

4. Allow time for the rental process.
Be sure to conduct a walk-around inspection of the equipment at the time of pickup to become familiar with its features and operation, and to ask any questions you may have.

5. Pack your boxes strategically.
Choose a packing room ahead of time and box up a few things each day. Mark each box with its contents and destination room. Have all your boxes packed before you go to rent your truck. Load the heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack items firmly and closely.

6. Read the equipment user’s guide for tips on driving and safety.
Monitor the equipment while it is in your possession, just as you would your own personal vehicle.

7. Always secure the back door of the moving van or trailer with a padlock.
Always make sure your doors are locked.

8. Always park your rental equipment legally and in a well-lit area.
Back up your rental equipment as close as possible to a garage door, building or wall, and if you can, park another vehicle in front of the rental truck.

Source: U-Haul

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Renting a Car? Verify Coverage You Have First

July 28, 2015 12:26 am

If renting a car is part of your travel plans, you likely have insurance options already available to you, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The I.I.I. recommends making these two phone calls before renting a car – you’ll save a bundle on wasted duplicate coverage!

Call #1: Your Insurance Professional

If you own a car, find out how much coverage you already have. In most cases, whatever insurance and deductibles provided by your auto policy would apply to a rental car, providing you are using the car for recreation, not business. However, if you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

Check to see whether your insurance company pays for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges. Some insurance companies may provide an insurance rider to cover some of these costs, which would make it less expensive than purchasing coverage through the rental car company. Keep in mind, however, that in most states diminished value (the reduction in a vehicle’s market value that occurs after a vehicle is damaged and then repaired), is not covered by insurers.

If you do not own a car and are a frequent renter, ask about a non-owner liability policy. This would provide liability insurance when you either rent or borrow another person’s car.

Call #2: Your Credit Card Company

Most credit card companies provide some level of insurance for rental cars. To find out the details of what is covered, call the toll-free number on the back of the credit card you will be using to rent the car and ask them to send you rental car coverage information in writing. In most cases, credit card benefits are secondary to either your personal auto insurance policy or the insurance coverage offered by the rental car company.

Insurance benefits differ widely by both the credit card company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. Credit cards generally do not provide personal liability coverage. Some credit card companies may provide coverage for towing, but may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees.

Source: I.I.I.

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The Household Convenience You Shouldn't Purchase

July 28, 2015 12:26 am

Liquid detergent pods may come in handy on laundry day, but their convenience is far outweighed by the danger they present, especially to young children. With over 5,000 complaints to poison control centers in the last six months alone, Consumer Reports advises households home to children younger than 6 should refrain from purchasing them.

“We recognize the role parents and caregivers play in keeping children safe, but we believe the unique risks posed by liquid laundry pods warrant this action, at least until the adoption of tougher safety measures leads to a meaningful drop in injuries,” says Consumer Reports Senior Home Editor Dan DiClerico.

Key changes to laundry pods have already been implemented in Europe, including the addition of a bittering agent to give them a bad taste, higher burst strength to make them harder to bite into, and a slower dissolve rate, so they’ll be less likely to open in a child’s mouth.

Source: Consumer Reports

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The Anatomy of Asphalt Roofing

July 28, 2015 12:26 am

Did you know the most popular type of roofing material is asphalt? According to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (ARMA), there are different kinds of low- and steep-slope asphalt roofing systems available, and a whole-system approach can provide long-term durability, reliability and value to a property.

ARMA recommends that residential properties with steep-slope systems generally include six components:

• An ice and water barrier product
• An underlayment
• A shingle starter product
• Asphalt shingles
• Hip and ridge shingles
• Ventilation, both for intake and exhaust

Asphaltic technology offers a range of low-slope roofing options, including Built-Up Roofing (BUR), Atactic Polypropylene (APP) and Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS), as well as many different installation methods.

Source: ARMA

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How to Start Planning for Retirement

July 27, 2015 12:24 am

Retirement preparation is essential to the success of your “next chapter.” If you’re unsure of where to begin, independent financial advisory firm The Mather Group advises the following:

1. Develop a realistic monthly budget for retirement.
Track your expenses for up to a year to get an accurate picture of your financial needs. Account for one-time expenses, such as that new furnace or roof you may soon need, and note month-to-month fluctuations in expenses. Plan for higher inflation rates for certain types of spending, such as health care and college expenses.

2. Develop a comprehensive financial plan. Take inventory of your assets – the equity in your home and all investments (401K, stocks, savings, life insurance, etc.). Note all projected retirement income streams, such as pensions and Social Security. Your financial planner will complete your plan and should stress-test it using Monte Carlo simulations to see how it performs under changing market conditions.

3. Maintain an appropriately diversified portfolio. You should be invested in a combination of fixed income, U.S. stocks, and foreign equities, which is the best way to protect your portfolio from a possible correction. Low-cost indexes such as ETFs are a better option than high-cost mutual funds, which typically add one percent in additional management costs.

4. Create a cash flow strategy to minimize taxes.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with specialized knowledge of tax code pertaining to retirement assets can help determine how you should tap your savings to minimize income taxes throughout your retirement.

Source: The Mather Group

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Building a Deck? A Comparison of Materials

July 27, 2015 12:24 am

(BPT) – Looking for a way to enhance your outdoor space? A deck may be the answer. According to the experts at Fiberon Decking (www.fiberondecking.com), the materials you decide to use, whether wood or composite, can affect the project from initial investment to maintenance years from now.

Building a deck with composite materials will cost more than virgin wood initially, but not as much as most homeowners think. The substructure is the same cost for either option and the remainder of the project could cost about 25 percent more for composite. However, most wood lumber is pressure-treated with different chemicals to boost its integrity and make it last longer.

That cost is often recouped over time because there is little maintenance required with composites – maintaining a wood deck can cost hundreds of dollars each year. Nail pops and splinters are common safety hazards with wood decks, as are cracked, warped and rotted boards that need to be replaced. And refinishing a wood deck can cost up to $850!

Composites are also environmentally-friendly – the material not only saves trees, but is created from recycled materials, keeping waste out of landfills.

Want to see how the numbers compare? Visit www.epa.gov and check out the EPA's GreenScapes Tools Excel Decking Cost Calculator.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Things Property Investors Should Know

July 27, 2015 12:24 am

Real estate has long been considered one of the best long-term investments, and with good reason. But before buying up properties like a game of Monopoly, investors should be aware of several factors that can make or break an investment, says Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, Certified Financial Planner Board consumer advocate.

Blayney recommends investors ensure they have enough to put money down upfront when purchasing a property, and factor recurring costs into their budgets (i.e., interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs). Real estate investors planning to act as their own property manager must consider the time, attention and availability needed for tenants, as well.

And keep in mind investing in real estate is equivalent to starting a business, says Blayney. From weighing the benefits of a rent increase to doing a cost-benefit analysis on property improvements, properties require significant amounts of strategy and management. Like any business, investors also need to consider an exit strategy.

Real estate investors should not neglect other opportunities for investment, particularly stocks. These offer the diversification most real estate investors do not have, unless they plan to acquire commercial, rental and industrial properties across a range of markets, Blayney adds.

Source: CFP Board

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